Sophomore guard Nate Hinton records his seventh double-double of the season in a victory

Cougars win conference opener over UCF

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The University of Houston Men's Basketball team (11-3, 1-0) opened its American Athletic Conference schedule with a 78-63 victory over the UCF Knights (9-5, 0-1), Friday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. With the win, the Cougars extended their winning streak to five, a stretch of games that began with a victory over UTEP and mid-season championship during The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

"The mindset of our team is to continuously remind ourselves that this is a new season," sophomore guard Nate Hinton said. "Conference is a new beast, and we are taking it one game at a time. To us, every game is a championship game."

While recording his seventh double-double of the season, Hinton scored a game-high 20 points (13 coming in the second half) on 58.3% shooting from the field, 50% from 3-point range. It was an exceptional all-around performance for the 6'5 guard out of Gastonia N.C., as Hinton notched a career-high 16 rebounds, five steals, three assists and a block in the win.

"Nate has just gotten better throughout the season," head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "When I recruited him, I knew from day one he was going to be a captain of this team because he impacts winning in so many different ways. He is a great representative of our program."

After missing two of their first three shots, it did not take long for the Cougars to shake off their holiday rust. Houston embarked on a 7-0 run ignited by freshman guard, Marcus Sasser, who scored five of the Cougars' first seven points following a slow start to the game.

However, a few bad calls and several unlucky buckets gave UCF a three-point lead en route of a 12-0 run late in the first half. Despite their mid-game turnaround, the Knights would not sustain their play as the Cougars took a 37-33 lead into the halftime break.

Although they closed the half connecting on all cylinders, the Cougars came out the gates in the second period struggling to buy a basket. After allowing UCF to come within two, Houston picked up their intensity on the defensive end and held the Knight scoreless for four straight minutes.

During the four-minute span, UCF missed seven consecutive shots and committed four turnovers during Houston's 9-0 run.

Junior forward Fabian White Jr, The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Most Outstanding Player, scored 13 points in the win, while Dejon Jarreau recorded 12 points shooting 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. For UCF, the Knights were led by Dazon Ingram who scored a team-high 13 points and Collin Smith who added in 11 in the loss.

Following the win, the Cougars will hit the road to take on the Temple Owls, Tuesday night, inside The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Tip-off is slated for 6:00 P.M. CT.

Quick Notes:

  • Freshman guard Caleb Mills left the game early in the second half following an allergic reaction. Coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game Mills is okay and will be ready to go by next game.
  • The Houston Cougars' outscored the Knights 28-15 in bench points.
  • The Cougars out-rebounded the Knights 45-41 in the win.


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How about the Texans land Sean Payton and keep their 1st round picks this year? Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton caught the attention of a lot of Houston Texans fans on Monday with comments he made on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.

Payton said he is absolutely considering the Texans’ gig citing the team’s draft capital, the AFC South and casual relationships with owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio as reasons for it, which cast a different light on the Houston job.

Whether Payton and the Texans ultimately wind up together, only time will tell, but if both sides were to agree that they are the right fit for each other, what would it take to land Payton in Houston?

Payton’s situation is a bit unique in that the Saints still hold his contractual rights because he signed a five-year extension with the team in 2019 before he retired in 2022. In order for the Texans, or any other team, to land Payton, they will likely have to give up a significant draft choice. Payton alluded to it during his conversation on The Herd.

New Orleans is likely looking for a mid-to-late first-round pick. A hefty price to pay in the NFL, but is there a way for the Texans to get a trade to work if they were to become convinced he is the right man for the job?

Like Payton said, Houston has put itself in a position where it owns a lot of draft picks, and a good portion of them come from the Cleveland Browns courtesy of the Deshaun Watson deal.

For 2023, the Texans have two first-round picks — the No. 2 overall pick and No. 12 from Cleveland. In 2024, Houston has two first-round picks as well, its own and that of the Cleveland Browns.

Looking at other teams across the league that are also reportedly interested in Payton, the Texans clearly have the edge over them. The Denver Broncos have only one first-round draft pick in this year’s draft, and it comes from the San Francisco 49ers, meaning it will be a late draft pick.

The Arizona Cardinals have the third overall pick in 2023. It's their only first-round draft pick this season. It would not make sense for them to part ways with that pick. The Carolina Panthers have the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft. Similar to Arizona, it's their only pick in the first round and it would not make sense for them to part ways with it for Payton.

The Los Angeles Chargers are an intriguing team following the collapse in the Wild Card round last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LA has the 21st overall pick in the 2023 draft. With Justin Herbert and various weapons across both sides of the ball, the Chargers are one team that could afford to trade its first-round pick in exchange for a head coach that could take them over the top. At the moment, it does seem like Brandon Staley will stay for at least one more season.

Lastly, come the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s seat cooled off tremendously following the team’s stellar performance against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card, but an abysmal performance against San Francisco this weekend could heat it up in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys will have a late first-round draft pick regardless of how they perform against the 49ers. No price will be too big to pay for Jerry Jones if he believes Payton is the final piece to a championship puzzle.

When it comes down to the Texans, outside of the Chargers and Cowboys, whom both appear to be long shots for Payton, there is no incentive to trade a first-round pick this year for Payton if both sides agree to work together.

For a team that has holes across various positions, trading away the No. 12 pick is not a wise move, even if it does land the most qualified candidate on the market. Houston could offer next year’s Cleveland first-round pick, which with a full year of Watson will likely be a later first-round pick.

Could adding a fourth-round pick this season on top of next year’s first be enough for the Saints? The thing about this scenario, which favors the Texans, is that in the event both sides agree they are the right fit for each other, there is not really much leverage New Orleans can use to increase the price.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis wouldn’t send Payton, the 15-year leader of the organization, to a team he does not want to coach for just because they are offering a greater draft pick, or a first-round selection this year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to Payton and what he wants. If Houston is his landing spot, then there is a good chance the Texans could get him for a lesser price than this year’s 12th overall pick.

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